The concept of income is pretty simple for the independent contractor -- if you don't work, you don't make money. But that simple notion is perhaps also one of the most stressful elements of IT contracting. When one job ends and you still haven't found that next gig, you find yourself at home knowing that you made $0 today along with the uncertainty of when the next cheque will come in.
The fact is, there is nothing you can do to change the current situation but there are many tasks you can do that will ensure you're set up well to find your next technology-related job quickly and reduce stress in the future. Here are 10 things you can do that are better than stressing over no income:
Update Your Resume (or make multiple versions of the same one). Very frequently in the IT contracting world, a job is filled within hours of it being posted to a job board. You need to be ready with your resume as soon as you learn about it. Create an extremely detailed resume of everything you've done or multiple resumes with different themes. This will make it easier to quickly customize a resume the second an interesting job posting becomes available.
Review Your Social Media. Now that your resume is up-to-date, take a look at your social networks, specifically LinkedIn. Recruiters often check here first when searching or they cross-reference it with your resume to look for red flags. Having all of the details from your resume on LinkedIn will help significantly.
Search and Apply for Jobs. Don't expect your favourite recruiters to call you just because you're available. Continue searching for jobs on all of the major job boards and apply to all of the ones for which you're qualified. The more staffing agencies with your resume, the more chances you have of getting a phone call down the road.
Review Your References. Have you been giving the same list of references for a few years now? It may be time to review. Check to ensure all contact information is up-to-date and look at some recent contracts to see if there are better references you can use.
Go to Interviews. If you have done a good job at updating your LinkedIn profile and resume, as well as applying to plenty of jobs, then you're hopefully also receiving phone calls from different recruiters. Take the interviews even if they do not have an opportunity at the moment. Meeting them now means, with your consent, they can quickly submit you to a client when a job opens up.
Organize Your Accounting. Your accountant might take care of your accounting but it's still up to you to have the information together. The more organized you can be with credit card receipts, invoices, and reconciliations, the lower your bill will be from your accountant.
Professional Development. Downtime is the perfect opportunity to improve your skills. You're well connected in your field of IT and should already know exactly where you need to improve (be honest with yourself). Look for resources online or sign-up for a course. The investment will be worth it on your next contract.
Join a Networking Group. Being around like-minded professionals can be a better way to build skills than formal training. We guarantee there are plenty of networking groups available that meet your needs (either locally or online), you just need to find them. Get involved and meet people!
One-person businesses need marketing too. Have you updated (or even created) your website recently? Do you have business cards to hand out? Not only do these tasks make you more professional and memorable to recruiters and clients, but they are another step you can take to protect yourself when the CRA is reviewing your independence.
Take a Vacation. Take advantage of the fact you're suddenly without work. Unplugging and destressing is extremely important to your mental health and makes you more productive when you do start working again. If it's been a while since your last holiday, you caught up with friends, you've done work around the house, or you've just done nothing, then don't feel guilty about taking time for you.
The least productive thing you can do when you have no work is sit around and worry about money. In fact, any experienced independent contractor will tell you it's the nature of the beast and you should plan for it. When you are working, ensure a portion of your income is being allocated for these "rainy periods." Then you can work on any of the above tasks with no stress and full commitment.